Sunday, October 18, 2009


From Faith (noun)
  1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
  2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
  3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
  4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
  5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
  6. the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.
  7. the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one's promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.
  8. Christian Theology. the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved.
I got into a recent good-natured comment debate with a reader who says she has faith in god, and that faith itself is good (or at least neutral - I'm not actually sure of her position here), but that she opposes organized religion. She thinks god interacts in her daily life, but that reason and logic are sufficient most of the time. However, she does support occassionally doing things that fly in the face of logic and reason, based on feelings (which she stresses are not the same as emotions), and claims that this is a good thing in her life.

So, let's explore faith. I've copied the eight noun definitions of Faith here, so I can let you - my readers - know exactly what I mean when I rail against faith, and why I say that faith is not a virtue, it is a vice. Definitions 1, 4, 6, and 7 relate to entirely to the natural world, and are therefore not what I (as a skeptic, atheist, and critical thinker) object to. Obviously, I could say I believe in secular humanism or have faith in it, although I'd be more like to say that I subscribe to secular humanism, and that I think (based on evidence, not faith) that it is a good way to live.

The second definition "belief that is not based on proof" is certainly something I find reprehensible and dangerous. If I believe a gnome steals the socks out of my dryer, I am delusional. I am believing something - or having faith in something - without evidence. I haven't seen the gnome; scientists have not confirmed the existence of gnomes; the vast majority of (if not all) gnomes are fictional. Without actually gnome evidence, it would be fool hearty to believe I had a dryer gnome even if my socks continue to disappear. I have no reason to suppose that the gnome explanation is the best one. I haven't explored other possibilities for why my socks are gone, and I've jumped to a supernatural or fictional answer as my first guess, rather than looking at the natural physical possibilities that fit in with the rest of my experience of reality.

Likewise, believing in a god that has not even been proven to exist, much less beliving in certain aspects or character traits of that god, is just as fool hearty. There is absolutely no difference in the evidence presented for god and for the dryer gnome. (If you think you have evidence for either, please leave a comment!) However, the dryer gnome belief may be fairly innocuous. I might successfully live my whole life without harming myself or others, infringing on the rights of minorities, or imposing my dryer gnome belief on others. God belief is rarely so benign.

The third definition, "belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion" can be thought of as extension of the second. Since no gods have ever been proven to exist, this further faith in a god or the doctrines or teachings of a religion worshiping that god, is built on a foundation of "no proof". It is just as stupid as believing in the dryer gnome. There is no evidence, no proof, no reason to believe that this is true. And unlike intellectually sloppy but rarely cataclysmic belief of a deist, this is theistic belief, which does harm. Some belief systems may be gentler, or less legalistic, or less wicked than others. Some particular religions or religious congregations or religious individuals may do good, and may ascribe that good to their religion. Neither of these things changes the fact that religion is foolish, harmful, and degrading to humanity. (There is no god - get the fuck up off your knees.*)

The problem is religious belief and belief in god do effect people's actions. It can lead people to trust untrustworthy people, as seen time and time and time again with despicable clergy sex scandals. It can lead whole groups to treat women and children as property, and it can lead the women to go along with this. It can lead loving parents to pray their children to death. It can (and does) justify homicide and terrorism. It can (and does) justify child abuse. It can (and does) justify the subjugation of women. Why aren't people MORE pissed off about this kind of "faith"?

Moving on. Definition 5 "a system of religious beliefs" can be effectively covered by the last rant (and is also an extension of definition 2.)

Definition 8 is probably the one I spend the most time on, in this blog and in my life. "Christian Theology. the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved." Christian theology is inherently wicked. I am not saying - and probably never would say - that all Christians are inherently wicked. Unlike them, I don't believe people are born guilty of sin and deserving of hell and death.**

I don't think humans need a justification or salvation - we're doing fine. Where we need to make improvements, let's make improvements. Where we're doing well, let's do more of that! And where we're dragging ourselves back into the Dark Ages, let's just stop it. Stop with the religious nonsense, the persecution, the notion of thought crimes. Just stop. If we give up all this theological bullshit and belief in things that aren't true and believe without good justification, we can get things done. We - humans - have the power and ability to improve our lots in life, and to help each other. That's phenomenal! Let's do more of it. Let's learn and grow and change and try new things and help our fellow apes and try not to destroy our planet. Faith keeps you stagnant, childlike, ignorant and foolish. It keeps you from growing, from expirmenting, from being free and autonomous and grown up.

So, to any and all who believe that faith is still a good thing, or who still believes in a good god, where do you think my socks are? And because I feel odd to leave a song on a minor chord, or a post on a meaningful point, I'll deflect from the moment with comedy.

Do you have more evidence for your god than Mr. Bean has for his invisible drum kit?

*Or help me catch this damn gnome. I seriously don't know where my socks are going, and it's annoying.

**On a side note, at this point in the post I went to go swap our TV for a bigger one from a neighbor - and nearly brought the entire entertainment center down on me. Heart beat = epic. (And yet what I yelled out was "My god... or somebody else's!")